Creativity key to survive US-China ties marked by competition, volatility, says Evan Medeiros


Evan Madeiros, a former adviser to Barack Obama, makes keynote speech at 2019 China Conference

By Johan Nylander and Shayla Sandoval

Business leaders will need to be more creative and strategic to cope with new risks arising from the shift in Sino-US ties toward greater competition and volatility, says Evan Medeiros, a former adviser on China to President Barack Obama.  

“As we enter this world of persistent and consistent tensions, business challenges are largely going to increase, especially as countries try to navigate how to deal with the push and pull of tensions in the US China relationship,” Medeiros, now a professor at Georgetown University, said in a keynote speech at AmCham’s 2019 China Conference in Hong Kong on Friday.
Part of the problem is lack of dialog and broader diplomatic interchange between Washington and Beijing, he said, adding that it is a “very dangerous situation” when communication is limited to comments and announcements by the countries’ top leaders, Donald Trump and Xi Jinping. 
“US strategy will need to be more competitive going forward, but that need not come at the expense of talking and negotiating as well. Engagement is needed,” he said. “The Cold War, bipolar sphere of influence model does not apply.”
Navigating these new waters of economic and political turbulence, and increased protectionism will pose a number of increased risks for global companies, including limited access to markets, skills, capital and technology. It may also be harder for companies to access supply chains, especially in manufacturing of technology. 

Successful companies will be those that can find ways to engage with China, including in third countries, while avoiding pitfalls at home.
“Functional spheres of influence will result in access risks, reputation risk, competitor risks, supply-chain risks, and economic nationalism risks for multinational corporations,” Medeiros said. 

Ambassador Max Baucus

Max Baucus, former US Ambassador to China during Obama’s administration, expressed concerns about the growing conflict between the two countries and how Donald Trump and his advisers are pushing for more protectionist policies. 
“The more the United States pursues ‘America First,’ the more we lose,” he told the more than 200 senior executives, policy experts and government officials who attended the conference. 
“We are in this together, and we have to respect each other,” said Baucus, calling for better dialog and understanding of each other’s positions.
“I’m an optimist, but with a fairly short-term pessimistic view on how this is developing. “It's because we don’t trust each other, we don’t spend enough time visiting each other’s countries.”